SIX NATIONS – Easter is a Christian holiday that acknowledges the death and the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Oddly enough—the Bible makes no mention of the part where bunnies appeared and began handing out chocolate eggs.
So, where did the Easter Bunny come from and why does it bring children candy and chocolate eggs? Also—since when do rabbits lay eggs?
As far as traditions go, getting a day off, free candy, and enjoying a nice turkey or ham dinner with friends and family is a great way to spend the weekend. Christianity has adopted pagan practices in the past and several are seen during Easter celebrations.
The concept of the Easter Bunny as the world has come to know it is first believed to have originated among German Protestants around the 1600s. A bit like Santa Claus, the Bunny (or Easter Hare as it was known then) would judge children and decide whether they deserved an Easter egg hunt or not. Today the rabbit seems to be a little less judgmental as to whether or not you deserve a treat—handing them out left, right and centre.
The Bunny often gives out candy and eggs from a basket based on a tradition from the 1700s. In the 1700s the Pennsylvania Dutch believed in an egg-laying hare called the ‘Osterhase’ or ‘Oschter Haws’. Their children would build nests in which the hare could lay its coloured eggs.
Eventually, chocolate treats would replace the coloured eggs and decorated baskets would replace the nests.
The eggs have roots that stem from Paganism as well—as a symbol of new life, eggs were a sign of celebrating spring in pagan festivals. When Christianity adopted the symbols, the egg became a symbol for the moment Jesus emerged from the tomb following his resurrection. The fact that now they’re chocolate is just a bonus.
An article from Mentalfloss.com says:
Our friend the chocolate bunny had yet to cross the Atlantic, though. The Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America says that “the Pennsylvania Dutch imported the Oschter Haws, or Easter Hare, who delivered coloured eggs to good children.” One of the better-known early sightings of chocolate rabbits in America was in 1890, when Pennsylvania shopkeeper Robert L. Strohecker featured a five-foot chocolate rabbit in his drugstore to attract business at Easter. This became a thing: A 1927 photograph captured two young boys flanking a mighty 75-pound chocolate rabbit in front of Florian’s Pharmacy in St. Paul, Minnesota (the owner happened to be the son of German immigrants). And after that long journey, chocolate rabbits of more manageable proportions eventually became an Easter staple.
No matter how the tradition of finding chocolate eggs, magical rabbits, or decorating baskets while at the same time acknowledging Jesus came to be, it’s now a large and successful part of the economy and North American culture—Easter is second only to Halloween in American candy sales.